Update 7/22/19. It's been a few years since I reviewed Amberen, a very popular menopause, and premenopause supplement and I thought it was worth a fresh look. The Amberen website says the supplement can “naturally restore hormonal balance.” In this updated review, I'll cover the science, research, who makes it, controversies, and side effects. If you've heard of Amberen and wondered if it really worked, I know this unbiased review will help you. Let's see what we can discover.
What Is Amberen?
Amberen is a dietary supplement touted to relieve symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and mood swings. The product website (Amberen.com) says the supplement “naturally restore hormonal balance by relieving hot flashes, boosting energy, and providing comfort for many effects of menopause, safely and effectively.”
Amberen works differently than hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Instead of replacing hormones, this supplement is touted to support the body as it makes its own hormones again. This, in turn, is said to ease symptoms of menopause. the product website is very specific that Amberen is not hormone replacement therapy.
Unlike other menopause supplements that may contain bioidentical hormones or soy, Amberen does not have these ingredients.
Let's now look at the ingredients in Amberen and the menopause research on those ingredients and after that a look at the research on Amberen itself.
From the product website we learn this supplement is touted to help menopausal and premenopausal women in the following areas:
hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, low energy and fatigue, sleeplessness, difficulty concentrating, irritability, menopausal headaches and stress, lack of sexual interest, muscle and joint aches and menopausal weight gain.
According to the product's website (Amberen.com) 2 capsules contain 400 mg of the following ingredients:
- Ammonium succinate
- Calcium disuccinate
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
- Magnesium disuccinate
- Zinc disuccinate hydrate
- Tocopherol acetate
In this list, the ingredients at the top make up most of the product, while those at the end make up the least. For example, since ammonium succinate is the first ingredient, it makes up most of the 400 mg dose of Amberen. Keep that ingredient in mind as it comes up a lot in the Amberen research I'll summarize below.
The package of the product also lists these other ingredients:
- Rice flower
- Magnesium stearate
- Silicon dioxide
- Titanium dioxide
- Carmine (a food coloring)
These other ingredients likely play no role in the effects or benefits of this supplement.
Let's take a brief look at each ingredient separately.
This is likely the main key ingredient in Amberen. It's also called succinate acid. Yet, another name is “amber acid.” this is obviously where Amberen gets its name from.
The Amberen.com website calls ammonium succinate a “Mitochondrial antioxidant” that blocks free radicals from doing damage. As an aside, the mitochondria are a hot topic in anti-aging research. Damage to the mitochondria seems to play a role in aging. Some supplements try to help the mitochondria too. for more on this see the reviews on:
The website also says “ammonium succinate promotes the elimination of toxic by-products.” While they don't say what those toxic byproducts are my guess is they may be talking about free radicals.
This is another name for the mineral, calcium. The addition of calcium to this supplement makes sense given that low calcium levels seem to increase PMS symptoms. The calcium might also help offset bone loss that often accompanies menopause. There isn't a lot of calcium in Amberen and that's probably good, as calcium supplements have been controversial because of side effects.
Of all the ingredients in Amberen, this one seemed to garner the most attention by women commenting below. Some complained the monosodium glutamate (MSG) caused them to have side effects if they were sensitive to it. On Amberen.com, they call this ingredient “Monosodium L-glutamate” maybe as a way to diffuse the controversy? They also link to the FDA website which says it's safe.
The company website says that only a small amount of MSG is used in Amberen in part to help “mitochondrial-benzodiazepine receptors.” Benzodiazepines are a class of medications (ex: Valium) that reduce anxiety. So it sounds like they are saying the MSG helps to calm women down by binding to the benzodiazepine receptors on the mitochondria. Previously, I've seen the company website state Amberen only has 40mg per serving.
Glycine is an amino acid (non-essential amino acid, meaning we make this in our body). The product website says glycine is used to help the mitochondria in the brain work better which in turn, helps improve “psycho-emotional balance.”
There is some evidence that glycine may help memory in both young and middle-aged adults. Since some women report memory problems with menopause, this may be another reason why glycine was added to the product.
This is another name for the mineral, magnesium. There are a few studies that magnesium might help PMS symptoms like fluid weight gain and mood changes.
Zinc Disuccinate Hydrate
This is the mineral, zinc. As the product website states correctly, zinc does a lot of different things in the body. Zinc deficiency is rare for most people living in the US. The RDA for zinc is 8 mg/day in women.
This is vitamin E. At least one study noted that vitamin E did not help hot flashes while other studies show it does help hot flashes. Because it's an antioxidant, vitamin E is sometimes added to supplements to help reduce spoilage.
Amberen is touted to have 45 years of clinical research. If we go all the way back to research from 1971, this is true if you count the early lab rat studies. Much of the early research was not on Amberen though (it wasn't around in 1971) but succinic acid, which is its key ingredient. Many of the studies are listed on Amberen.com but I found others who were not.
Let's summarize the research and try to make sense of it.
This Russia investigation was titled Treatment of climacteric symptoms with an ammonium succinate-based dietary supplement: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. It lasted 3 months and involved 125 women aged 42-60 years of age. The Amberen company sponsored this study.
The women either took a placebo or Amberen. Women completed questionnaires before and after treatment. Those showed Amberen eased 13 out of 21 different menopause symptoms.
In addition, blood tests also noted Amberen raised estrogen levels. In addition, the anti-hunger hormone, leptin increased too. The women taking Amberen also saw improvements in body weight and waist circumference too
I found this study intriguing because at one time, Amberen was marketed to help women lose weight and “stubborn belly fat.”
Another study in 2016 titled Maintenance of homeostasis in the aging hypothalamus: the central and peripheral roles of succinate doesn't specifically deal with Amberen. Rather its a review paper on the benefits of succinic acid.
All the authors of this paperwork as scientific advisors for Lunada Biomedical – the company which makes Amberen.
This was also a Russia study. It was titled A Succinate-Based Composition Reverses Menopausal Symptoms Without Sex Hormone Therapy is a lab rat study.
Basically, Amberen was given to older mice for 4 weeks. Amberen treatment was noted to improve several menopausal symptoms in the mice. The study was supported by Lunada Biomedical, the company which makes Amberen.
It may be confusing but this study also exists under another name: A Succinate-Based Composition ”Rejuvenates” Aging Mice and Alleviates Menopausal Symptoms in Women Without Sex Hormone Replacement Therapy. It is also a Russia investigation and is published in another medical journal. Regardless, it's still a mouse study.
This investigation, titled Succinate-Based Preparation Alleviates Manifestations of the Climacteric Syndrome in Women, involved 70 women who were given Amberen or placebo for 3 weeks. Menopause symptoms of those receiving Amberen appeared to improve more than those taking the placebo. a “trend” of increased estrogen levels was also seen (“trend” means it was not clinically significant).
The Amberen.com site lists a 3-year observational study involving 245 women. While they say Amberen was safe and effectively Unfortunately they don't say where the study is published so I cannot comment on it. I've reached out to Lunada Biomedical, the company which makes Amberen for more on this study. I'll update this when they get back to me.
The 4 Week Animal Study
At one time, the Lunada Biomedical website listed a 4-week study of older, laboratory mice. No details were given about this study, but it sounds similar to the 2008 Amberen mice studies mentioned above. Might it be the same?
The 6 Week Animal Study
Again, the Amberen website gives no details about this study other than that Amberen was given to older female mice for 6 weeks and it helped them.
Even though the company that makes the product is based in the US, Many of the studies were conducted in Russia.
My Thoughts On The Amberen Research
Here are a few thoughts on the Amberen Research:
- Most of the studies appear to come from Russia. This makes sense as I believe it was a Russian scientist who first patented the method of making succinic acid. Still, since this is an American company, why are there no US universities looking at this supplement? Hint, Hint grad students reading this…
- Some research findings are interesting such as Amberen may raise estrogen levels, help mood and maybe even weight loss. The research needs to be replicated to confirm these findings.
- Lunada Biomedical supports research on succinic acid and Amberen. There's no problem with this as long as they don't play roles in how the outcomes of the investigations.
- The Amberen Website could do a better job or listing where the research can be located. I found their research page clunky.
- Several of the early research is on lab animals.
In addition, of all the studies listed above, I located only 2 human investigations. They were conducted in 2005 and 2016.
Where To Buy Amberen
Here's a short video I created to help you better understand the evidence and claims of Amberen and how its supposed to work:
Who Makes Amberen?
The company is called Lunada Biomedical. This is the company that holds the US patent on making succinic acid, the key ingredient in Amberen. The business was started in 2006.
The company website – LunadaBioMed.com – redirects to Amberen.com. That makes sense as it's their supplement. The company address listed with the BBB is 6733 S Sepulveda Blvd #108 Los Angeles, CA 90045-1551. This address shows an office building.
One of the doors bears the name “Lunada.” I don't think this is where Amberen is made. While I could be wrong, the address doesn't look like a “biomedical research facility.” On their website, they list another address: PO Box 452750 Los Angeles, CA 90045.
The Better Business Bureau lists other names two other business names as well :
These correspond to different supplements. For example, Potensa is an erection supplement that Lunada Biomedical markets (Potensa.com).
Amberen And The FTC
- stop marketing the supplement for weight loss
- stop misrepresenting the results of studies
- stop non-disclosure of financial relationships with some endorsers
Is It Vegan?
It's not vegan but it is vegetarian. Because the capsules contain gelatin, it's technically not “vegan.”
How Much Should You Take?
It's recommended to take 2 capsules (1white and 1orange) per day after breakfast. It may take 90 days before you notice differences taking effect.
Is it All-Natural?
In the US, “natural” and “all-natural” really don't have official definitions so anybody can use them to say just about anything. Amberen.com doe say that while the ingredients are synthesized but they are bioidentical to how the compounds look in nature.
Can You Take It On An Empty Stomach?
I'm not aware of any evidence that says you can't do this but the product website says to take it with food. My guess is this is to reduce chances of GI discomfort (no proof of this though. It's a guess).
Over 45 Years of Clinical Research. Really?
Amberen has not been around that long. The early research from the 1970s was on the key ingredient in the supplement, called succinic acid. If you count the research on succinic acid, then yes, the research goes back decades. Bit. if we include all that research, then it's noteworthy that the majority of studies are not on humans. See the research section above.
Where is Amberen Made?
The website doesn't specifically give the location except to say it's at a facility in Southern California and that they use globally sourced ingredients (from all over the world).
Does It Have Soy?
No. there is no soy, black cohosh, maca or other herbs
There is a guarantee. To get a full refund the company website states the returned item must be “postmarked by the 60th day from the date of your purchase. To get a return label call the company at (800) 222-3304 and they will email you a return label. All returns are to be shipped to PO Box 10452 Van Nuys, CA-91410. There is only 1 refund issued per household.
How To Speak To A Nurse
To speak to a nurse, call 800-211-8012. The nurses featured on the product website are “Holly D” who is an RN and “Marcy L” who is a VN which I believe is a “vocational nurse.”
On the website, they call the nurses “NurseAid” and “Nurse Aid Agents.” They can help answer questions about the supplement but cannot give medical advice.
Amberen Side Effects
For the vast majority of women, I feel Amberen is safe. None of the Amberen clinical studies have reported bad side effects either.
As you read the comments below, you'll notice some women have said they developed headaches after taking Amberen. Could that be due to the MSG or something else? The good news is that this side effect seems to be very rare. Here are some general things to consider when taking this dietary supplement. This list is not complete:
While the product is likely very safe, here are some things to consider.
- Start with less than recommended for the first week to see how you respond
- Stop taking the product at least 2 weeks before having surgery.
- Speak to your doctor first if you had a hysterectomy and/or oophorectomy. This caution is on the product website.
- The product is not intended for women who are not going through menopause or pre-menopause.
- The product should not be used by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Discontinue use and consult your doctor if you have any adverse reaction.
- Speak to your doctor/your pharmacist first if you take any prescription medications.
- Women who have headache issues should ask their pharmacist if Amberen is right for them.
One report has been published which seems to link the supplement to a heart problem called spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD). See that review for more insights.
The supplement website site also says “Do not take if you have severe hypertension.” They don't give a reason for this caution. Could this be related to the MSG which appears to raise BP? When in doubt, call the company for more insights.
Amberen & Carol Nicholson
At one time, Carol Nicholson (Carol Nicholson-Kriegel), a registered nurse, was often heard in the radio commercials for this supplement. Carol was identified on the company website as “our menopause expert”. In addition to being a registered nurse, she also owns an advertising agency called International Marketing Company (IMC22.com).
Today however Carol is not found on the Lunada Biomedical website. In her place, there are now pictures of nursers named Holly and Marcy.
Amberen vs. Estroven
|Amberen 2 capsules||Estroven 1 caplet|
|Ammonium succinate||Total carbs <1g|
|Calcium disuccinate||Calcium (dicalcium phosphate) 90 mg (10%DV)|
|Monosodium Glutamate||Black cohosh root extract 80mg|
|Glycine||Soy isoflavones 60 mg|
|Magnesium disuccinate||Green tea leaf extract 100 mg|
|Zinc disuccinate hydrate||Yerba mate leaf extract 30 mg|
|Tocopherol acetate||Magnolia bark extract 15 mg|
What Is RU-21?
if you read through the comments below, you will find women who have stated that an anti-hangover supplement called RU-21 helped their hot flashes. Two capsules of RU21 contains 200 mg of succinic acid.
I have no idea if it helps hangovers (or hot flashes) but RU-21 is less expensive than Amberen. While I can't guarantee that it will work for everybody:
for those who are interested.
Does Amberen Work?
Some evidence suggests Ameren might help ease some of the symptoms of menopause. If Amberen really works, it might be because of succinic acid (Amber acid), which is likely the active ingredient. Might all the other ingredients in Amberen make it work better than just succinic acid? Anything is possible. While I have reservations about some of the Amberen research, studies do exist and this sets Amberen apart from many of its counterparts.